Stress Fracture

Making up only 2% of all sports injuries in athletes, stress fractures, can often go overlooked. If you suspect you may have a stress fracture, don’t hesitate to visit our Visalia office.

A stress fracture is when a thin crack develops in the bone often, from the repetitive force. These cracks are most common in the second and third metatarsals, as well as in the heel. 

What causes stress fractures?

Stress fractures occur when the bones in the foot are suddenly involved in a new activity that causes stress. This can cause them to crack. 

Some well-known causes of stress fractures are:

  • Wearing improper footwear (shoes that do not have enough support)
  • Engaging in repetitive high impact sports (ex. Tennis, gymnastics, basketball)
  • Lack of nutrients (low levels of Vitamin D)
  • Rapidly increasing the intensity of a workout or activity without a break-in period
  • Changes in surface (indoor treadmill to the outdoor sidewalk)

How can I be sure I have a stress fracture?

Common symptoms of stress fractures are:

  • Pain in the foot at the location of the break 
  • Feeling a deep pain in the foot or toe
  • Swelling in the foot or ankle
  • Pain that intensifies after activity but subsides after a period of rest

If left untreated, a stress fracture can develop into a break. The pain can become increasingly severe and can affect the alignment of the foot. If it does not receive the proper medical attention, the fracture can heal improperly and cause more problems later on. 

If you notice any of the symptoms, give us a call to schedule an examination.

Treatment and Prevention

Stress fractures are often difficult to diagnose without the proper imaging. Once an X-ray or bone scan has been taken, and your stress fracture is properly diagnosed, treatment can begin.

Your doctor may recommend that you cease the activity that is causing the pain. In certain instances, your doctor may place your foot in a boot to reduce the amount of weight that is put on the bone. You will be instructed to rest for some weeks until you can do low-intensity exercises with no pain.

At times, stress fractures may be in an area of the foot that requires surgery to heal. It may be in an area with low blood supply. Your doctor may need to utilize pins or screws to hold the foot together for it to heal correctly. 

Stress fractures can be painful and an inconvenience for patients with an active lifestyle. However, they can be prevented. 

The following tips can assist in avoiding stress fractures:

  • Wear the proper shoes to exercise
  • Make sure to alternate exercises frequently. Try swimming one day, and playing basketball the next day
  • Maintain a balanced diet full of Vitamin D to keep your bones strong
  • Start new activities gradually and avoid intense, repetitive movements
  • If you begin to feel pain when exercising, stop and see a doctor
  • If you find that you have unrelenting pain in your feet, toes or ankles, see a doctor as soon as possible

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